Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pumpkin Ravioli

We made this pumpkin ravioli from Rachel Ray last night and it was a big hit! Well, at least with me, B, and J. M decided to throw up into his plate--little stinker. Needless to say he was sent to bed. But despite his bad review, I highly recommend them.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Weekend of Baking

The weekend was spent making lists, planning menus, grocery shopping, baking, and preparing for the big day.

We made Almontina Cookies--so pretty and pie-like. This was a lot of work for just over a dozen cookies. I think my cutter was a little too big though. If I can find a smaller one, it may be more worthwhile. I love the almond paste in it.

We made Pistachio Linzertorte with Cherry Jam from Paula Deen. I really like these, but they're also a lot of work. They break easily and are hard to give as gifts. I'm not sure the boys liked these as much as I do.

We also made classic sugar cookies and decorated them with white icing and colored sugar. Those are the boys' favorites. We just use an old recipe that my mom gave me and we used when I was growing up.

I made Christmas Crack. The recipe I use is slightly different than the one in that link. I use

35 saltines
1/2 C butter
3/4 C brown sugar
6 oz. chocolate chips
1/2 C chopped pecans

This is one of my absolute favorites and I attribute to giving me a bad cholesterol reading one year in early January (right after Christmas). It's called crack because you can't stop eating it. I'm already thinking about making a second batch....

We made Cake Balls, which were an absolute disaster! I've heard so much about these on BBC's Bargain Board--those ladies go crazy over them--but mine sucked. I think it was because I used Ghirardelli Baking Chocolate though. It just wouldn't melt right. I should have got that cheap baking bark. Mine turned out looking like shit balls. I really should get a pic to post. The combo I used was yellow cake with chocolate frosting dipped in semi-sweet and white chocolate. Everyone else liked the taste (they said the chocolate ones tasted like Ho-Hos), but I'm just not a huge cake person. I won't bother trying again to make something that was such a PITA and that I don't even like all that much anyway.

I made Glazed Nuts--a recipe from my MIL:

Place 1 lb. nuts (she uses walnuts, I use pecans) in boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and pour 1/2 C sugar in and stir. Let sit for 5 minutes, stirring twice. Fry in oil and drain. I can never get these nuts to crisp up, so I stick them in the oven after (350 degrees until I like the consistency of them).

Last, I made Cheese Balls. This recipe makes 2 and they are spicy and sweet. They're best if you make them at least two days ahead of time. I usually don't add the cherries.

2-8 ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 small can diced jalapenos
1 can (8 ounces) crushed pineapple, drained well
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup chopped red pepper
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 tablespoon seasoned salt
1/4 cup chopped maraschino cherries (optional)
More chopped pecans (approximately 3/4 cup) for rolling the ball in

Beat the cream cheese until soft. Stir in the rest of the ingredients (minus the second batch of pecans for rolling). Divide into two balls and roll in the chopped pecans. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill.

Happy Holidays and Good Eating!

Friday, December 19, 2008

The First Day of Christmas Cookies

Okay, so I'm running a little late on the days of baking. Stomach flu struck our house (just the kids so far--fingers crossed), and I didn't want to bake in a House of Germs.

These coconut bars were wonderfully easy and incredibly delicious. Even B, who doesn't really like coconut, liked them. I had a hard time keeping J (and myself) out of them (M refused to eat his dinner and didn't get any). Next time I'll make a double batch.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Amusement of the Day

Thanks to Phoebe for turning me onto the blog "Fuck You, Penguin," "a blog where I tell cute animals what's what." It's a new addition to my blog roll on the left. Enjoy!

And fuck you, cute little rabbit that lives in the bush by my work parking spot. Don't you know it's winter and you should be hibernating or some shit? You think because you're so little and furry...and twitchy...that's okay to hang out under my car? You and your twitchy little paws can go suck a big fat donkey dick.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Marco's Coal Fired Pizza

This weekend we went downtown for the Parade of Lights. The parade was extra lame this year. There were a couple of instances when there was up to 15 minutes between floats! What's up with that? The person in charge of organizing the floats, etc. should be fired. The crowd, and especially the kids, got really restless.

Before hand, we went to Marco's Coal Fired Pizza, which I've been reading such good things about, and it was tasty. They gave the kids pizza dough to play with, which is always a fun touch.

The boys shared a Margherita pizza (Fresh Mozzarella, Pecorino Romano, San Marzano Tomato Sauce, Fresh Basil and Extra Virgin Olive Oil) without the basil, upon recommendation from our server, when we asked him what picky kids like.


J liked it:


but M wasn't too thrilled about it. Hey, if it's not a Red Baron 4 cheese frozen pizza, he's not happy. Little stinker.

B and I shared their famous coal-fired chicken wings (served with grilled onions and
focaccia bread). They're lemony and delicious. I'm not a huge wing person, but I really liked these. We also shared the Toscana pizza (Fresh Mozzarella, San Marzano Tomato Sauce, Topped with Arugula, Grape Tomatoes, Prosciutto di Parma, Gran Cru and Extra Virgin Olive Oil). Very tasty!


It was a fun place to have a great pizza and some good wine or beer (I had a glass of Cara Mia Prosecco and a Stella) that you can actually take the kids too. We'll be back again, I'm sure.


Life is GOOD

B got a 20% raise yesterday and they promised him another 15% in the New Year!

Thank goodness, since I've spent so much money on Christmas! :-)



Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I Almost Forgot to Post These

Halloween pics! We went as internet sites. B was a guy from passedoutphotos.com and I was a lolcat. I had SO much fun doing his costume!




Getting into the Christmas Spirit

Okay, how did I not know that Sufjan Stevens has Christmas music EPs? Thanks to Phoebe for posting songs on her myspace. I just bought a box set of Christmas music from him on half.com for less than 20 bucks! Woot!

Friday, December 5, 2008

So, While I'm Eating All This Food...

...at least I'm working out and I can prove it. I just won a $50 gift certificate from my gym for attending more classes than the average joe!

But, oops, it's a gift certificate for the...grocery store! Now I can eat even more.

Our Kick Ass Thanksgiving Dinner

We had an amazing dinner. It was just us, which was a first. B and I worked hard in the kitchen and were so proud of our efforts.

The turkey recipe we used was Herb-Roasted Turkey with Shallot Pan Gravy. It was literally the best turkey I ever had. I'm not a huge turkey person, but loved this. And most surprisingly, M (who doesn't eat anything) ate FOUR portions!

I made my famous Apple & Pecan Stuffing. I don't really have an official recipe--just wing it. I tried finding something similar once for printed posterity and copied this one from Joy of Cooking, I think, and made notes on what I do different. Here is what I wrote down:

1 C chicken broth (I use more)
1/2 C chopped celery (I use more)
1/4 C chopped onion (I use more)
2 medium Granny Smith apples, cored and chopped
4 T butter (I use more)
1/2 t salt
4 C toasted bread (I use cornbread, and good, hearty white and wheat bread--I like it with all 3)

1/2 C pecans
1 t sage (I use less)
1/4 t (or more) cinnamon
1/8 t pepper
(I add nutmeg, but not sure how much)

Saute celery, onion, apples (you may want to add these a little later in the saute-ing) and butter in large pan until soft. Add broth and salt and bring to boil and simmer, covered ~ 5 min.
In large bowl, combine everything else. Pour broth and veggie mixture over dry ingredients and toss gently.
Turn into greased casserole and bake covered 25-30 min. at 350.
Makes 6 cups

I made Paula Deen's Sweet Potato Bake, which is the bomb! It's like having a dessert as a side dish.

In addition we had cranberry sauce (the real stuff!), mashed potatoes, and cherry pie.

The only disappointing dish was my cherry pie which was overdone, despite cooking it for less than the indicated time. But I made up for it when I made the cranberry bars later in the weekend.

Another yummy recipe for leftovers I found in the same magazine was for Bacon & Cheese Stuffing Gems. Mmmmmm!

Now, time to plan Christmas dinner!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Hello, My Name is Bitchilla...

...and I am addicted to toy deals on Amazon.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

You Need to Make This Dessert

Since I'm the only one in the house that eats cranberry sauce, I had a lot leftover. So I decided to make this recipe for Cranberry Bars from Hallmark Magazine.

For some reason I wasn't expecting much, but they are HEAVENLY! They have a shortbread crust and a fruity cake-like top.

It was pretty easy too. So go get yourself some cranberry sauce (I used the real stuff, but that's easy to make). You don't have to use leftovers. And make it.

I highly recommend eating them warm with real whipped cream, but cold with no whipped cream is good too.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Another holiday book giveaway!

It's another chance to win signed copies of the hottest books of the holiday season!

Here's another (yes, another!) chance to win a box full of books. The winner will get signed copies of all of these fabulous reads:

by Tali & Ophira Edut

SCOT ON THE ROCKSby Brenda Janowitz

by Brenda Janowitz

by Mindy Klasky

WIFE GOES ONby Leslie Lehr CITY DOGby Alison Pace


TIME OF MY LIFEby Allison Winn Scotch

To enter, just email brenda@brendajanowitz.com and write “Another holiday book giveaway” in the subject line. You must be a subscriber of the www.brendajanowitz.com mailing list to enter.

Want extra entries? Post a blog entry about this giveaway and/or email five friends about it. For each blog entry and each email you send out, you'll get another entry to win!

Winners will be announced on December 16. So what are you waiting for? Enter today!

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Kitchen

I'm finally getting around to detailing our meal at The Kitchen in Boulder. While both were excellent, I preferred our meal at Black Cat.

The Kitchen had a very warm atmosphere with lots of wood and high ceilings. I got the corresponding wine flight with our meal, which was delicous too. We shared all of the food in our courses and had:

First Course:
Roasted Bone Marrow with parsley & caper salad - yep, I tried it! It was very rich and I loved the parsley/capers that went with it. But it was probably a bit much for someone who doesn't really eat beef to jump back on the cow with.
Celeriac Soup with Truffled Mushrooms - this was good, but didn't really excite me. I wasn't a fan of the grainy texture. B loved it though, especially the mushrooms.

Second Course:
Roasted Heirloom Squash with Chickpeas, spelt, Cilantro, Tahini Yogurt: Again, B really loved this. I thought it was good, but it was a bit too much like the mexican goulashes I made in my vegetarian days.
Grilled Mackerel with Mashed Potatoes, Spinach, capers & Lemon: This was decent, but didn't excite me or B. The mackerel was quite oily.

Third Course:
Pot O' Chocolate with cream- how can you go wrong? This was amazing, of course. It came with a little pitcher of cream, but it definitely wasn't needed. After putting it on my first bite, I didn't use the cream again.
Yogurt panna cotta with grapefruit - Absolutely delicious! It went fantastically with the dessert wine I had.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Recipe Reviews

We like to try new recipes in our house, and have been particularly busy with them this last week--particularly last weekend. Some were a hit, some not so much. So here's what we tried (click on the recipe title for the link to the recipe):

Bouchon Simple Roast Chicken: This was the BEST roast chicken I've ever had! Actually it might even be better than the roast chicken I had at Bouchon. Three ingredients, that's right! It was so amazingly easy. We did not truss the chicken, because we didn't have any kitchen twine. The chicken was so flavorful and moist and we picked at that carcass for a long time.

Cheese Ravioli: We got this recipe from a Family Fun cookbook and let Miles pick the recipe out. The boys loved making it. However, I would highly advise against making it, unless you have a pasta machine. We did not and it was incredibly difficult to roll out and I still didn't get it rolled out enough. The boys thought the ravioli were great (which is all that counted in this case), but they were really thick and the pasta was tough. I won't try this recipe again, unless I get a pasta maker someday.

Pumpkin Cupcakes: I finally got around to making the pumpkin cupcakes that I posted about ages ago. The icing on these was really unique and tangy, made from buttermilk and apple cider vinegar. If I made them again, I'd definitely cut the cloves by at least half--it was way too strong. It makes a lot of cupcakes and they aren't as good later. The frosting kind of "wept" overnight. I think I'll try a new recipe next time.

Butternut Squash Gnocchi: These were pretty tasty. J loved them. M thought they looked "weird." Go figure. They'll definitely stay in occasional rotation. We served them with chicken and apple sausage, which was a good combo. A very hearty meal.

Black Cat Review

Shit, who am I kidding, I don't know how to review a restaurant. But I like to remember meals and this is the best place to get it down for posterity.

Black Cat is a tiny little place with a cool atmosphere. We were seated right by the kitchen, which is open so you can watch the cooks cooking. I liked that (especially since one of the yunguns was hot!), but the temperature was pretty hot too and I got bumped by servers a couple of times, plus had to listen in while one server conveyed some complaints to the chef. The chef was friendly, which was cool. I don't get to say hello to the chef often.

We started off with a beer for B and some kind of lemon martini for me. I had the
apple and lovage soup with duck confit, which was amazing. Just a little sweet and yummy yummy duck. It was my favorite dish of the evening. B had the seafood quenelle with buttered lentils and chardonnay, which he liked very much. We shared all of the dishes and we both liked both of these, but I preferred the soup and he preferred the seafood, so I guess we ordered correctly.

I had planned on ordering the gnocchi for my entree, but luckily my server warned me that it had beef in it. Guess I should have realized since it was a bolognaise. And I'm not much of a beef eater. So I had the crisp potato rosti with spaghetti squash, apples and riesling. I thought it was a little greasy and too "hashbrown-y," not necessarily in the good way. It was good, but my least favorite dish of the night. B had the confit pork shoulder with goat cheese polenta, black pepper, and pumpkin. It was good too, but also not the best I've had. We both decided that we could have eaten just apps and desserts that night and been happier without the entrees. I had a glass of Cara Mia Prosecco with dinner. I recently got a bottle of this stuff. Affordable and delicious! So I was happy to get a glass of it.

For dessert I had chocolate pot de crème with citron and whipped cream. Heavenly! But then chocolate pot de crème is one of my absolute favorite desserts (I recently got one from Whole Foods and it was awesome too). B had the Shaker pear cake with caramel ice cream and nutmeg, which was also delicious. With dessert I had a French dessert wine. I wish I knew what it was, but it was not listed on their wine list and our server was not very knowledgeable about wines. I should have asked her to write the name down. Something with "lapin" or "les pins"/"lepin" in the name?

Afterwards we stopped at a Scottish bar, which turned out to be quite cheesy, but I had a yummy glass of scotch (I think it was Balvenie) and had fun watching an older woman there by herself hit on the hot, young bartender.

It was a fun evening. And tonight we'll do it again at The Kitchen! And guess what the dessert offering is? Pot O'Chocolate! Yippee!

Just In Time for the Holidays

So not only is it going to be the start of "The Holidays" in 1 week, when I eat like a pig and gain at LEAST 5 pounds. But my gym also doesn't offer any more noon time classes for a month. Then on top of that, I go to my endocrinologist this week, only to find out that my thyroid levels are too high and I need to lower my dosage, which means I will gain weight from that.

Can a girl getting a fucking break?

So I'm thinking about not lowering my dosage until after the holidays. Would that be terrible? What do you think?

Monday, November 17, 2008

I'm Gonna Be HUGE

I'll report back later on our trip to Black Cat. We just got another opportunity for a sitter on Friday night and are headed back to Boulder for First Bite Boulder. This time we're headed to The Kitchen, another place I've been wanting to try. They not only feature a seasonal menu, but go above and beyond with their "eco practices."

Here is the prix fixe menu for the night. We'll be going to the regular Kitchen (not "upstairs"). I think I'm going to have to try the bone marrow. I've heard so many times about how wonderful it is. But that's a big step for a former vegetarian, who still eats almost no beef! Time to expand my horizons.

Friday, November 14, 2008


I finally got a chance to work on the layout of this blog and added some widgets and gadgets to the side bar. I'm quite pleased with what I've done so far!

Conversations with a 4 Year Old

Bitchilla: You sure have a cute butt.
CuteKid: And I have a cute pen is.
CuteKid: Because it's so little.
CuteKid: And sticky.
Bitchilla: Well...(suppressing laughter) It must be sweaty.
CuteKid: Yes, I'm sweaty ALL over.

Note: a key word has been changed to hopefully avoid internet perverts.

Holiday Book Give Away!

What's the perfect gift to give this holiday season? Books, of course! Enter to win a box full of books-- all signed by the authors, so they make for a fabulous holiday present! (Or you can just keep them all for yourself-- we won't tell!)

The winner will get signed copies of all of these fabulous reads:

by Brenda Janowitz

by Brenda Janowitz

by Mindy Klasky

by Leslie Lehr

by Alison Pace

by M.J. Rose

To enter, just email brenda@brendajanowitz.com and write “Holiday book giveaway” in the subject line. You must be a subscriber of the www.brendajanowitz.com mailing list to enter.

Want extra entries? Post a blog entry about this giveaway and/or email five friends about it. For each blog entry and each email you send out, you'll get another entry to win!

Winners will be announced on November 25. So what are you waiting for? Enter today!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Joe Strummer

We watched "The Future is Unwritten" the documentary about Joe Strummer last night. It was well done and brought back fond memories of my youth (although I was a little kid when The Clash was at its best).

I had forgotten just how hot Joe was! When I think of him, I think of a cool middle aged punk rock guy, but not an object of lust. However, when he was young, YEOW! Check it out:



Walmart Bingo

Check out the Walmart Bingo card on List of the Day. He's right, it IS true.


I hate Walmart with a passion and only go there when I absolutely have to. That occurs maybe once or twice a year. And it's always worse than I expect.

My sister and I have this "Walmart speak" we do, where we make our lips cover our teeth (so we look like we're toothless) and talk with what I can only describe as a redneck accent. It's hard to describe, but I promise you it's funny. :-)

I know for sure I'll get a bingo next time I am forced to go there.

ETA: no idea why that stupid image won't shrink. I've forced a refresh a ton of times, but maybe it has and I just can't see it yet. Stupid computer.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Top Chef Home Town Heroes

As if I didn't have enough reason to watch my favorite show "Top Chef" (which starts tomorrow!)...

I just got my 5280 magazine "Table Talk" email newsletter, and it notes that this season will feature two Boulder chefs: Hosea Rosenberg, executive chef of Jax Fish House Boulder, and Melissa Harrison, sous chef at Centro Latin Kitchen & Refreshment Palace.

Go, Colorado!

We're Such Dorks

God, I love my husband. What other guy would have the following IM conversation with me?

Translation: we were discussing the delivery of our order from wine.woot. We had trouble getting the wine because, of course, UPS tried to deliver it when we weren't at home and it required a signature. We ended up having it redelivered to B's office.

Note that names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Coolhusband (1:46:26 PM): icanhaswine
Bitchilla (1:46:35 PM): youhazwine?
Coolhusband (1:47:27 PM): ihasthreewinez
Bitchilla (1:47:38 PM): youz should haves 6 winez
Bitchilla (1:47:50 PM): 3 bockses?
Bitchilla (1:47:58 PM): or only threez bottlez?
Coolhusband (1:48:15 PM): oshit, icanhassixwinez!
Coolhusband (1:48:23 PM): yeah, I got 6 bottles of wine
Bitchilla (1:48:27 PM): Oh Noez! yuz has 6 winez
Bitchilla (1:48:35 PM): icanhazwinesnow?
Bitchilla (1:48:37 PM): kthxbai
Coolhusband (1:48:50 PM): winez = minez!
Bitchilla (1:48:57 PM): ohnoez!
Coolhusband (1:49:13 PM): mahofficecanhasbuzzez
Bitchilla (1:49:21 PM): noez!
Coolhusband (1:49:31 PM): ohyez
Bitchilla (1:49:39 PM): usux
Bitchilla (1:49:42 PM): kthxbai

Goat Cheese with Figs

I discovered something very evil this weekend. We joined Costco this weekend (okay, I discovered 2 evil things). I was very impressed with their cheese section. We got this goat cheese with figs in it made by Celebrity International. Go to your Costco and get some. It is nummy!

ETA: I finally found it on the internet and added links above.


Friday, November 7, 2008

If You're Hungry...

Don't go here: Tastespotting.

Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket

And this is a topic of conversation?

Our nation cracks me up. This morning on the news they were polling people on the street about Michelle Obama's "controversial" dress. Why is that controversial? Because it's not a traditional, boring suit?

Most said they didn't like it. I think she looks fine! And I liked the way the family coordinated.

And yes, I know I'm doing the same thing, by talking about it here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


What a great night! I was alerted to the fact that we had a new president-elect by fireworks in at least 2 different places in my neighborhood. B and I were switching back and forth between a recorded program on the tivo and live coverage. We weren't watching the news when the election was called, but I knew almost immediately thanks to the nearby celebrations. I'll never forget it!

Good job, America!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Get Your Ass Out There

and vote!

*But only if you vote the way I want you to. ;-)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Look at My New Baby

Isn't she adorable?

Pentax Optio M50 8MP Digital Camera with 5x Optical Zoom. I got her for $90 on woot.


She's pink, of course.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Great Wine Deal

Get it while it's hot!

I am in love with wine.woot, even though I've never actually purchased anything from there until now. (I have posted from woot before though.)

Right now they have a deal for 6 bottles of Andretti Winery Chardonnay for $45 shipped. That's just $7.50 a bottle! The stuff retails on the Andretti site for $21 a bottle.

I'm not a huge chard fan, but at the price, why not? I can always use it for holiday and hostess gifts!

Items on wine.woot usually stay up a few days, so you might still be able to get in on the deal.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

My Bloody Valentine in SF

So apparently here is what I missed visually, since I couldn't see a damn thing.

This is what I mainly saw. Kind of explains why it was so loud, huh?

Pain in the Fucking Ass

Last night I made these popcorn "monster" hands for M's classroom party.

Somehow I got conned into being room mother this year. Oy. You'd think candy corn and popcorn stuffed in a glove would be easy, right? It took B and I several hours to make 20 of those fuckers. Not to mention the 7 batches of popcorn...

Never again.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I am Fast and Good

Oh yeah, I rule. I already have a sitter. So we now have reservations at Black Cat in Boulder for First Bite Boulder. Here is the menu. Sounds pretty good for $26!

There are some reviews of Black Cat on this site and they say it's the best in the area.

Monday, October 27, 2008


We haven't needed a sitter in awhile. My parents were around a lot of the summer and we haven't gone out alone before or after our big trip in order to save some of the money that we spent while in CA.

I desperately want to do First Bite Boulder. It's Nov. 15-22 and you get to eat a 3 course meal at one of Boulder's best restaurants for $26 per person. Boulder has an amazing culinary scene now and there are a bunch I've been dying to try. So I called our sitter and SHE'S IN BUDAPEST UNTIL DECEMBER! So now I'm trying to find someone else, but without family around, I fear it's a no go. What a bummer. I was really wanting to go to Black Cat, Colterra, The Kitchen, or Radda Trattoria.

Here's another bummer, I didn't get around to making the pumpkin cupcakes after all. But, the boys helped me make spaghetti and meatballs from the Family Fun Cooking with Kids cookbook. The boys did a great job of helping and they both loved it. Even Miles gobbled it up, including the meatballs. And surprisingly, it was pretty darn good! We used turkey instead of beef, of course.

Miles chose the recipe and he's chosen another one for next week: cheese ravioli. Let's hope this gets this kid to eat.

Another high point of the weekend: a Sunflower Farmer's Market opened up near me (well, not too far) and had amazing grand opening deals. It's no Trader Joe's, but it'll have to do for now.

Friday, October 24, 2008

This Weekend's To Do Item

Oh man, I think I'm going to make these pumpkin cupcakes. The full recipe is here.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

California Trip - Day 6

Friday was a whirlwind day of sightseeing. We started our morning in Chinatown. The entrance was almost right across the street from our hotel.


We walked around and bought some souvenirs--t shirts for the kids and cousins, a little silk chinese outfit for baby Wyatt, some little toys for the boys.

We then went for a dim sum lunch at a little hole in the wall restaurant. We had pork buns, sesame balls, short ribs, string beans, and the cutest little rabbit shaped shrimp balls.


We then walked to Golden Gate Bakery for dessert. My egg custard tasted better, but Brian's moon cake was prettier:


We then went to City Lights bookstore for some browsing and to see the Jack Kerouac stuff outside. I got a tshirt, that is already too small(!).


Then it was a hike up to Coit Tower (whew!).



You can see Telegraph Hill, the famous windy street, in the middle of this one:


Then we went to Fisherman's Wharf to see the Sea Lions. We didn't do anything else there--too touristy/crappy. But Brian unexpectedly ran into someone he works with. Small world. The sea lions are so funny and cute (and loud)!



We then had to do the requisite ride on the trolley car. We had the meanest, scariest driver ever. Some kid didn't understand what he was saying, so he made the poor kid move to the inside of the car. He was a serious crabapple.



For dinner, we went down to the Ferry Building Marketplace and did a little window shopping. Most shops were closing, so we didn't get to explore and shop as much as I would have liked. We did get to go to do some shopping at the Scharffen Berger store, where we sampled lots of chocolate and bought quite a bit too, including their 10th Anniversary Blend, which we felt was quite appropriate considering the nature of our trip. We stopped for a drink at Ferry Plaza Seafood. I had sparkling wine and B had beer. It had great views and the seafood looked like it would have been yummy.

For dinner we went to Slanted Door. I was really looking forward to this meal, as I had seen it recommended on Chow Hound and a colleague who is really into food had recommended it. I was kind of disappointed. It was VERY loud and trying way too hard to be "hip." The tables were so close together I was practically sitting on my neighbor. Our waiter was very inattentive and just generally sucky. He even brought out one of our appetizers with the main dish. WTF? The worst thing was the bathrooms which are unisex (!). They have an attendant there to show you into a stall, which thankfully is fully enclosed. But he apparently wasn't doing his job and the lock on mine wasn't working and he actually let a man walk in on me!!! Plus I really don't want to freshen up my lipstick while standing at a sink next to an old man. Bad bad idea on the bathrooms, people. So, here is what we had:

To drink I had a Royal "Pimms" Cup--a refreshing house blend of gin, vermouths, amari and zests topped with ginger ale and sparkling wine; served tall. Holy shit, it was good! I had two. B had beer. To eat we had Japanese yellowtail with crispy shallots and thai basil--this was pretty good. We had the Slanted Door spring rolls with shrimp, pork, mint and peanut sauce--these were very disappointing and nothing special. We had the seared dayboat scallops with spicy red curry, celery root and asian pear slaw--this was the only dish that lived up to my expectations--it was awesome. As a main dish, we had caramelized tiger prawns with garlic, onions and chili sauce--these were okay, but nothing I couldn't get in any decent chinese restaurant.

After dinner, we headed over to the Carnelian Room for the view and some drinks.


I Know Cool People

Taking a break from our trip...

I can say I knew her when. My online buddy, The Virtual Voyeur (who has a hilarious blog, by the way), has finally received global internet recognition for her writing skillz. One of her posts is featured on List of the Day , the very popular (and one of my favorites) blog. Check out the Guest List Of The Day: Bad School Mascots post.

Monday, October 20, 2008

California Trip - Day 5

On Thursday, our actual anniversary, we FINALLY managed to sleep in and didn't get up until 9:30. We had breakfast at what turned out to be a really crappy place, despite the sign that said it had the best breakfast in town. I should have known better. If I had used the bathroom there before my breakfast game, I wouldn't have eaten there. They actually had a sign in it that said don't throw the paper in the toilet. I thought they must mean paper towels, right? Then I noticed the same sign was on the toilet paper dispenser. GROSS!

We did a little window shopping and then hightailed it down the Napa Valley. We, of course, had to get pumpkin and pistachio milkshakes at Taylor's Automatic Refresher. We stopped at the absolutely wonderful St. Helena Olive Oil Company, where we bought gifts and souvenirs. You can taste all of their products. In addition to olive oil, we got cabernet vinegar, tarragon mustard, and black button sage honey.

We headed back to San Francisco and stopped at Golden Gate Park, where we first visited the Japanese Tea Garden. We took a lot of pictures because it was so pretty.







Here's another pretty site from another part of the park:


We then checked into the Hotel des Arts. Each room has murals done by a different artist and the halls are lined with art for sale. We stayed in this room done by Sam Flores, which was really lovely. Take a look at the various rooms on their website, here. Many of them are absolutely gorgeous. It's a very old school, big city, almost European style hotel. We got one of the rooms with its own bathroom. I wasn't going to share a bathroom on my anniversary. The room was very small, but comfy. In the first pic below you can see how the bathroom door opens and hits the bed. My only complaint was that they needed a ceiling fan for air circulation. To this desert dweller, SF was incredibly humid and I was so hot when in the room. We got a teeny fan from the front desk, but it didn't do much. Our room windows opened up to a kind of rooftop courtyard (but not one you should really go onto). So our view was windows of other rooms in the hotel.




We got ready and headed to Berkeley (which, by the way, is dumpier than I expected) for our anniversary dinner at Chez Panisse. If you are not familiar with Alice Waters; she is considered by many to be the founder of "California Cuisine." The restaurant started in the seventies and is famous for featuring local, seasonal fresh food. It serves a prix fixe menu that changes nightly. You don't know what will be on the menu until one week ahead of time, so hopefully it's something you'll like! The items we were served were items I probably wouldn't have chosen, but I am very glad I was served them as they were outstanding.

The menu consisted of

Country-style pork terrine with pickled beets, leeks, and cherry tomatoes

Tomales Bay mussels mariniere

Grilled Sonoma Liberty duck breast with shell bean gratin and tomato confit

Red wine-poached pear with creme anglaise

We had a bottle of champagne. The pork terrine was delicious. The mussels were good, but I thought the weakest dish. The duck was the best duck I've ever had. Actually I haven't had duck much, and I don't think I've ever had it done right. This was definitely right. The pork and duck dishes were my favorites of the evening and in a dead tie. The poached pear dessert was outstanding as well.

We then headed back to SF for our reservation at Bourbon and Branch for cocktails. It's a speak easy and you need a password to get in (which you get when you make a reservation). It's done up in swanky red and they have a HUGE menu of classic and new drinks. They serve only high quality liquor and mixers and even fresh squeeze their juices each day. I wish I could remember the 3 drinks I had. I should have written them down. I know one was made with Pimms--which is my new favorite drink. Surprisingly, the 3 cocktails did not make me very drunk. B and I decided it must be the low altitude (combined with the large meal).

California Trip - Day 4

This post is a continuation from the post below.

On Wednesday, we woke up and had breakfast on the porch consisting of a polenta-crusted zucchini quiche, a fruit cup similar to the day's before (with figs), homemade sausage patties, and the raspberry lemon bread (like first day). Dee-lish.

We hightailed it up the Sonoma Valley and across the mountains to Calistoga Springs. We had "the works" scheduled at Dr. Wilkinson's Hot Spring Resort . Our package included a mud bath with facial mask, an aromatic mineral whirlpool bath, steam room, blanket wrap and one-half hour massage. Dr. W's was very "old school." The spa room kind of looked like an old gym and I was a little shy, since there was no privacy. Nothing like getting butt naked and climbing into a tub of mud in front of several women. But it was relaxing. We also stayed at the motel there, which was very cutes-ily vintage. I felt like it was about 1962.

After the works, we had lunch at a deli across the street and then headed to Sterling Vineyards, where Eric had set us up with a tour. It looked like a huge Mediterranean villa and you had to take a tram to get up to it.



It was a self-guided tour with stops for tastings along the way and more tastings at the end. The wine was okay, but not my favorite of the trip. I really enjoyed getting to see the grapes being brought in and the process of de-stemming, crushing, etc. starting.






We had a little time to kill, so we headed over to Clos Pegase for a tasting. The building was designed by Michael Graves and they had lots of art, including an artist there working and displaying his paintings. He had a sweet, mellow dog with him. Our server was incredibly pompous and served our wine by spinning our glasses, and pouring the wine in them while they were still spinning. However, he let us join a bit of a tour of the caves, which contained more art. You can see some of the art on this page, but it doesn't show my favorite pieces, like this giant thumb and Bacchus.

We then headed over to Castello di Amarosa, a winery in a castle that looks like they shipped it over from old Europe. However, it was completed in the last decade and is only a replica. Some of the bricks are from old castles, but it does not exactly replicate any one castle, just the general style. They tried to make it historically accurage. It is definitely a tribute to excess.




The caves were really lovely and it was a fun tour. There was even a torture room. I especially liked the Pinot Bianco and the Gioia, a rose, and we bought a bottle of each to bring home.

That evening we had dinner at Taylor's Automatic Refresher in St. Helena. This was Brian's favorite place we ate at on the whole trip, mainly because he loved his pumpkin shake so much. Taylor's looks like it used to be a drive in, but now you go up and order. They call you when it's ready and you eat it at a picnic table. The main difference between it and a normal drive in is that the food is a little more gourmet and they serve alcohol. I had the ahi burger and sweet potato fries. The latter were a little disappointing (they had some weird herbs on them), but the burger was delicious. I also had a fantastic pistachio milkshake with whole pistachios in it and a glass of white wine. Brian had a regular burger with SP fries and the above mentioned shake plus a beer.

We went back to Dr. W's to have a swim. We ended up feeling like naughty school children along with the older people in the pool--a Danish couple and two women from CA who told us they were prison guards. There was this large group of very old people in the court yard, who were obviously together for some sort of tour. They were listening to some lame folk singer/story teller. They were also blocking the entrance to the hot tub area. A very effeminate, snooty man, who must have been their guide came over and told the other two couples to be quiet, even they weren't being loud at all. So we were all already riled up about that. Then we wanted to go to the hot tub. There was no way to get to it, without totally walking through the group and right by the singer. And they made fun of the prison guard ladies when they walked through! I was all set for a show down when we decided to head over, but not much happened. I told the guide guy that the set up was unacceptable and gave the old people the look of death as I tromped through in my wet bathing suit and towel. Hmmm...no one said anything to me.

We then shared our bottle of sparkling wine from Domaine Chandon. I was kind of tipsy by then and wanted to go out, so we walked down the street to a bar, where we tried local brews and had some calamari.

Friday, October 17, 2008

California Trip - Day 3

This is continued from the post below.

On Tuesday we woke up, surprisingly without hangovers, and, having learned our lesson, ate breakfast on our porch. It was chilly but gorgeous. We had buttermilk waffles with apple compote, some sort of sweet bacon, and a fruit bowl that contained canteloupe, mixed berries and figs. I have never eaten as many figs in my life as I did on this trip.

We then headed to Moon Mountain Vineyard, a tour our friend Eric had set up for us. We LOVED this place. Our guide was Angie and she started us out with some tastings, then gave us a glass to carry with us while we toured the winery. It was just us and one other couple, so it was very personal and Angie was incredibly knowledgeable.




Moon Mountain was another winery that was certified organic and completely sustainable. It and Benziger had planted plants that promote the good insects and birds (that eat the bad insects), had owl boxes to help control rodents, etc. It was pretty interesting stuff.

The caves were really cool and had been drilled into the volcanic rock. We got our first barrel tasting of wine there.


We then bought sandwiches at the Sonoma Cheese Factory. We took them over to Gundlach Bundschu winery for a picnic. We did not do a tour or tasting there. We then headed over to Acacia Vineyard in Carneros, where Eric had set up a tasting for us. They seemed to focus mainly on Pinot Noirs. Their wines were excellent, but quite expensive. I wanted to buy some, but just couldn't swing $65 on a bottle. We loved the Horseshoe Bend Pinot Noir and a Late Harvest Chardonnay, a dessert wine that tasted like honey. Our tasting guide, Margaret, whose nametag said she was "Queen" of the establishment, was quite a character.

We had dinner that evening at the Fig Cafe again. It was close and we liked it. We had the artisan cheese plate again and made sure to choose the Pierre Robert again, along with a couple of offerings we hadn't tried before. We shared the heirloom tomato pizza this time with a decadent brownie dessert. I got the wine flight, which consisted of four pours and Brian had Lagunitas Censored Beer, which he really enjoyed.

We then headed back to San Francisco for my anniversary present to Brian. I got tickets to see My Bloody Valentine at the SF Design Center, a strange indoor/outdoor venue. It was huge and it was virtually impossible to see the stage. We were pleasantly surprised to see that Spectrum was one of the opening acts--a very strange coincidence because I had joked earlier that day that he might open. YES!!! I HAVE ESP! I've seen him perform before as Sonic Boom and did not enjoy it, but he was good this time. I wish I could say the same for MBV. They were trying to hard to be the loudest band in the world and not trying hard enough to sound good. I'm not exaggerating: I read somewhere that they've played louder than The Who; and I think they must have managed it this time. I know I'm old, but COME ON. It was just stupid. I had to go to the bathroom to get TP for our ears, since I had forgotten to bring ear plugs. We were definitely not the oldest people at the show, but we were one of the few that forgot to wear our early 90's black clothes (*rolling eyes*). Brian thought he saw two starlets (separately) at the show. I was pissed he didn't tell me. Damn, if I can remember who now. I think he said Zoe Deschamel and Michelle Williams. I'll have to try to remember to ask him.